Too many drafts have been scraped before I sit to write this again. Too many documents deleted to start with a blank tablet again.. Memories of my last month in Darjeeling (and moving ahead to Sikkim) have been running in my head off and on, and yet now as I sit to write this, my mind has gone blank, honestly. There are images and emotions and conversations and faces and ideas and nostalgia… Everything a curious and beautiful chaos in my head. Yet, I would try to share a little about Darj and Himalayan Mountaineering Institute’s Basic Course.
I was in Darjeeling to attend the Basic Mountaineering Course at Himalayan Mountaineering Institute. Darj is a 3 hour drive from the airport.. The cool, damp air, the winding narrow roads leading up to it, the ferns and fungus, the rains and the particular air of the mountains and forests I’ve began to associate with it.. In its first look, Darj District reminded me of some of other districts of the northern states I had previously visited. But i was in West Bengal for the first time, and I would let the place surprise me 🙂 All the same, I was happy as ever with the idea of being among the mountains and the wilderness once again.
On first seeing the railway station and an old discarded engine at the side of the street, I could start to imagine what Darj must have been like in the 70’s.. which was really the period that captivated me! The beautiful towering Ghoom monastery greeted us next. Passing its little shops, women bustling by, kids clinging to them under the umbrella, the momo kiosks, and the valley clouds.. Things that would, in the month that followed, become routine to me, fascinated me then.
I was trying to soak in as much as i could about the place since I set foot there, and yet I wasn’t feeling the same about something I had been looking forward to since so long! HMI. I remember when I first saw the sign that read ‘HMI – 30 minute walk from here’ as I was going there in a cab. I was carrying certain anticipations and inhibitions along with two rucksacks to the institute. Walking up the slope of the zoo, comes HMI. Through the course, that had to be my least favorite uphill walk!.. And most memorable downhill too..
So, here I was..An experience I had looked forward to since so long!.. And yet at its threshold, oddly reluctant too. The first evening was spent just getting to know the place and other participants.. And after an exhausting day, came a sound night’s sleep… What began the next day, was more than just training for a basic mountaineering course.
My journal is filled with pages of information gathered on field and in lecture halls, memorable instances with new-found friends and also some insecurities and lessons only going there could have made me realize!
What I’ve done here is tried to write ‘Darj Diaries..’ A series of few posts describing my month-long visit to Darjeeling, HMI and Kanchenjunga National Park, Sikkim. Reading about all of it again in my journals has been an experience in itself too! 🙂 Here we go…